I Missed AIDS

I was born in 1979. That puts me at an age that when we all filed into the auditorium of the Robert Crown Center in Hinsdale, Illinois to learn about human sexuality, my junior high classmates and I were taught about HIV/AIDS right alongside other sexually transmitted diseases. By this time we knew how HIV was transmitted, and we knew that condoms were our best chance of avoiding sexually-transmitted HIV. We knew that both men and women could contract HIV, that it wasn’t a curse on gays, that you couldn’t catch it from a toilet seat or from kissing someone with AIDS, that it wasn’t a gay cancer. But our understanding of HIV/AIDS was still new enough that is was impressed on us how narrowly we had avoided it. We were made to understand how new this knowledge was.

I have many gay friends and some of them did have to live through that decade or so uncertainty when the gay community was being decimated by this new, unknown plague. I have watched grown men crumble 30 years later at the memory of that haunting time. I have met scientists who became scientists because of their passion to end the reign of terror that has been caused by this disease. I have friends who are social workers because they have been driven to provide care and comfort to people who are affected by HIV/AIDS. I know activists who work daily to end the stigma that is still in many ways associated with being infected with HIV.

I missed AIDS. But AIDS is still here, very much a part of our lives. Most of us have come to accept that HIV is a disease, not a curse put upon a certain portion of the population. We know how to lessen the transmission of HIV. Learn the history of HIV/AIDS and you will be as angry as I am when you hear about asshole clergymen who tell Africans that they shouldn’t use condoms, or that condoms will  increase their chances of contracting HIV. Listen to the stories of people who lived through the mid 1970s and early 1980s and lost partners, friends and family to AIDS. You’ll feel your heart break when you hear about studies showing increases in HIV infection rates in the United States and other places where we’re supposed to know better.

Anyway, what set this all off was a video about the AIDS Memorial Quilt over at Joe.My.God, which I’ve posted at the bottom of the page. The AIDS Quilt is a memorial to those who have died in the AIDS pandemic. Here’s a little history from Wikipedia:

It officially started in 1987 in San Francisco by Jones, Mike Smith, and volunteers Joseph Durant, Jack Caster, Gert McMullin, Ron Cordova, Larkin Mayo and Gary Yuschalk. At that time many people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals, due to both the social stigma of AIDS felt by surviving family members and the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the deceased’s remains. Lacking a memorial service or grave site, The Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved ones’ lives. The first showing of the The Quilt was 1987 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, The Quilt was last displayed in full on The Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1996.

Also according to Wikipedia, the quilt is still growing, and bears more than 46,000 panels celebrating and grieving the lives of over 91,000 people. The quilt is managed by The Names Project Foundation, and portions of the quilt still go on tour and are hosted by various organizations in order to remind people of the magnitude of the AIDS pandemic, and to raise funds to support AIDS service organizations.

Here it is. Have a tissue handy.

UPDATE/CORRECTION/APOLOGY (2/21/12) – After reading some of the stories that have been shared here and on my Facebook wall, I feel that I need to apologize for this sentence:

“I have many gay friends and some of them did have to live through that decade or so uncertainty when the gay community was being decimated by this new, unknown plague. “

I believe that I have been unintentionally cruel here. I have many friends – gay AND straight, bisexual and all shades of gray – who lived through the earlier days of AIDS. To all of my friends and readers who were affected by HIV/AIDS regardless of your sexual orientation – it was not my intent to diminish or forget about you or your experiences. I apologize for my thoughtlessness.

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I Missed AIDS
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467 thoughts on “I Missed AIDS

  1. 1

    I remember the quilt. I was born in ’82, and unless I’m confusing it with another quilt charity/project, I think the local library set up something for people to contribute to a section that was to be added. Not sure though. I’m not going to count the years because I don’t want to make myself feel old again.

    Clergy spreading lies about HIV/AIDS and trying to prevent condom use is one of the long, long list of reasons I have to never support the church regardless of belief of lack thereof.

  2. 2

    In ’87 I worked in the lab at Oak Park Hospital- most AIDS patients went to bigger hospitals in Chicago; the few we had were memorable for how quickly they succumbed to the disease. One was a young man in his late 20’s-early 30’s; I drew blood samples on a Wednesday and he looked like he might have had a bad cold – on Thursday he was moved to the ICU and was gone by Friday. I will never forget the atmosphere of fear and dread – and with it the misinformation that ignorance can spread…

  3. 3

    I was born in 1983 and I know what you mean here. I missed out on the terror and fear of uncertainty and deaths, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been touched. I lost someone I cared about to the disease several years ago, and it is very much still with us.

    This last year, I read a piece written by a man in his early 20’s who had his first World AIDS Day because despite thinking that he had missed AIDS, so to speak, he was now HIV positive. Hearing Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aim for a totally AIDS free generation was incredibly moving.

  4. 4

    I was a young teen when it was becoming known – we had a child in our school district who had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, and they decided to school him separately in a trailer in the school parking lot. Our high school choir performed at his school, and they wouldn’t even let him come into the gym for the assembly; we had to go give him a special performance of his own. He was all of maybe 10. Even then, with as scared as everyone was not knowing exactly how easy it was to contract, my heart broke for him and his family being such outcasts. I shudder to remember how things were then.

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    PG SLOT สล็อต คือเกมอะไร ? เพราะเหตุไรคนยุคสมัยใหม่ถูกใจเล่น สิ่งที่ทำให้คนยุคใหม่ขณะนี้ ถูกใจเลือกฝากเงินทุนเข้ามาลงพนัน กับทางเว็บไซต์ สล็อตเว็บตรง ออนไลน์ ของเราตรงนี้ บอกได้เลยว่า สล็อต มีสิ่งที่ดีหลากหลายที่ผู้เล่นทุกท่านถูกใจเป็นอย่างยิ่งในยุคปัจจุบันนี้นั่นเอง เพราะว่าทางเว็บไซต์ สล็อตออนไลน์ ของพวกเราที่นี่ กระทำปรับปรุงอย่างต่อเนื่อง เพราะฉะนั้น ทุกสิ่งก็เลยมีความนำสมัยอยู่เป็นประจำ วิธีการเล่น สล็อตเว็บตรง PG ที่ใช้งานได้จริง ความช่วยเหลือทุกๆสิ่งทุกๆอย่าง ที่ทางเว็บ สล็อตเว็บไซต์ตรง pgสล็อต ของพวกเราที่นี่ ได้มอบให้ กับผู้เล่นทุกคนใช้ประโยชน์งานลงพนันทุกเกมของค่ายเกมทั้งหมด รวมถึงเทคนิคการเล่น สล็อต ต่างๆบอกได้เลยว่าเป็นเคล็ดวิธีซึ่งสามารถใช้งานได้เป็นอย่างไม่ต้องสงสัย เนื่องจากทางเว็บ สล็อตเว็บไซต์ตรง แตกง่าย ออนไลน์ของพวกเราที่นี่ อยากให้ผู้ได้ทุกท่านได้รับกำไรกลับไปอยู่แล้ว.

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